If you’re anything like me, you love some Gran Turismo. Not to date myself, but I’ve been playing the game since the PS1 days. I swore to my dad that if you squinted hard enough, the replays on Gran Turismo 2 looked real. Here we are 25 years later with Gran Turismo 7, Polyphony Digital’s latest in the long-running flagship series, now on the PlayStation 5.
I feel like I don’t really need to describe what Gran Turismo 7 is, because you surely already know. It is a game where you race cars against other cars on tracks. As such, Gran Turismo 7 is equal parts incredible and incredibly frustrating.
Back in the 90’s, there weren’t many realistic racing games, and Gran Turismo had little competition. It’s 2022 however, and the years in between have seen the rise of games like Forza make incredible quality of life improvements to the genre. GT7 is an impressive technical marvel on the track, with cars that look, sound, and feel more real than ever before. However, the game stumbles over itself by hiding the meat behind an incredibly cumbersome series of menus and talking heads.
Yes, talking heads. You spend way more time than anyone should have to getting talked to by a series of stock photo characters that lecture you on cars and car history. This isn’t optional either, it’s all part of the game’s incredibly strange “career” mode. The career mode of GT7 is handled through the Cafe, where you get menu books that tell you to go do a race, which unlocks that track/race etc. I wish I was making this up, but I’m not.
Somewhere along the line, the creator of the game though that lecturing the player about cars was more interesting than just letting the player play the game and build a virtual racing career. I’m not sure how detached from reality you have to be to think this is what people want, but the same game also forces you to sit through an 8 minute long montage scene about cars.
I had a lot of fun with Gran Turismo 7, even suffering through the incredibly generic conversations I was being forced to have with Luca.
It’s frustrating that this is how the game is set up, because the core driving mechanics are incredible. Every car feels real, the DualSense controller lets you feel every bump in the road, and the graphics are second to none. Why they felt the need to hide all of this behind layers of inane nonsense is beyond me.
Gran Turismo 7 chooses to take a different approach to being a racing game (as discussed above). It took me a while to wrap my head around, but I believe the intent behind GT7 is to be less of a game about racing and more of a game about cars and car culture. You load up the game, pick a car from your garage, and then take it on the track. I found myself spending a lot of time just doing time trials on real courses like Laguna Seca or Willow Springs rather than actually racing, which is exactly what you’d be doing in real life.
When I’m not having my own track day, I would load up Sport mode, which is essentially the same as it was in GT Sport (PS4). Sport Mode is a selection of prescribed daily races that you enroll in and compete with other real life players around the world. There are restrictions on car type and customizations in order to standardize the race for all players. Sport mode can be as frustrating as it is fun, with a very cumbersome penalty system that unscrupulous players can (and do) take advantage of to knock you off the track and force you to take a time penalty.
Despite these flaws, I found myself really drawn to Sport mode a lot. There’s something about the loop of qualifying time trials, racing, and repeating, that kept me hooked for hours at a time.
Of course, if you want something more free-form, there are traditional player-hosted lobbies you can hop into and drive around in.
Overall, GT7 is a strange game that made some strange choices, but it’s a good one. It has the vibe of a “dad game” that you boot up and just hang out in. In the end, I do wish it it had a more traditional career mode ala previous Gran Turismo games; but if you enjoy cars, you’ll enjoy your time with Gran Turismo 7.